Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Whitestone Traverse On the Solstice

A few more pictures from the Whitestone Traverse. Luke came up with the idea of moving together on the first few pitches, which made for a few sketchy moments, but we managed to do the first 9 pitches in a couple of hours, which was pretty cool.

Luke led us through the '5a section', which scared the hell out of me, dodgy gear and trusting holds you'd prefer not to have to trust. The climbing probably wasn't much more than 5a/b, but seriously scary as my first pitch of climbing in about 2 months.
The last few pitches had seriously scared me- my lead being a sketchy hand traverse across a band of 'doggers' (solid sections of rock made from fragments of pre-existing rocks- the only things you can trust at Whitestone) and Ivy-covered rock for feet. I clipped a peg which then instantly crumbled under the weight of my quickdraw. This was not reassuring. I managed to make moves to a groove, filled with thorn bushes and then down-climb to safety. But that was two pitches ago now. Luke wanted this route even more than I did, but realised the aid section wasn't going to go free. This called for a some alpine tactics...
We were now at that spectacular belay on the very arête of the 'Black Mamba cave'. I took a while to stop shaking and Luke tried to find a way through the Aid section.
"How does it look Luke?"
"Desperate. -Complete choss and about 15 degrees overhanging."
This did not inspire me with hope.

Luke down climbed from the belay to a level of easier climbing and then traversed leftwards on an 'interesting' block. He reached the Black Mamba cave and set up a belay. Now it was my turn. I elected for an ab as I was more or less mentally finished- swinging round the corner Luke pulled the ends of the rope to assist. I made sure Luke had his hands on the rope and then let go to traverse into the cave- quite scary as I was abseiling further left than down.
We were finally in the famous 'Black Mamba cave'. Only 4 pitches left now and only one difficult section. Luke led off again and climbed the pitch well and in good style. In the time it took him to climb it, it got dark. Luke shouted from round the corner that it was about 5a/b. I could see from what he'd done that this beta was a complete lie. (later he admitted it was more like 5c/6a) The pitch is quite hard to describe, but basically once you set out on it, you have to finish it. There is a small fragile ledge on the arête, with a big roof over your head and from here no gear to the next corner.
"what happens if I fall from the arête?" I asked Luke.
"you'll just swing into the corner" He assured me.
"mint!" - I was really happy about this. It was now dark, 6a climbing to a ledge on the arête and then a possible 3 metre swing into a wall, whilst hauling Luke's bag. The first time I completely refused to climb anything since Ian wanted to set out on some UIAA VI on the L'M at 6 in the evening. We finished only a couple of pitches from the end. - The traverse 'done', but perhaps not really in the best style or in a manor which satisfies our consciences.
Abbing down at the end.

Monday, 6 October 2008

First Ascent- Anyone's Daughter E3/E4 5c and Five-A-Side Finish E2 5b

We returned to Ingleby to finish 'the physical Graffiti Project' - no chance. Jesus it's hard. Must be hard 6b- a sort of high-footed dyno on absolutely shite holds for the start and then things get easier, just a pity we can't get off the ground!
We sloped off miserably and after Dave was forced to jump many metres off a HS! due to it being so dodgey; we wondered what we were going to get done. We then went to have a look at a project I had fancied for a while.
The easy slab- 5a, leads to a break with incredibly poor friends and then a seriously sketchy (and slightly muddy) move allows poor R.Ps to be arranged in the crack above. extremely stressful climbing then follows- hard moves above gear you really don't want to trust and the top out is slopey and sketchy. Luckily though it is quite escapeable rightwards -just before the R.Ps. (This is 'five-a-side finish' which Dooge later led). But once you're committed into the top finger crack of Anyone's Daughter it's a serious proposition with marginal gear. Nice route though, but couldn't warrant a star due to it's escapeability. Grade wise? Tricky, escapeable apart from the last desperate set of moves. The gear is probably oright, but looks real sketchy and shallow. My R.Ps weren't really in the crack so would have probably held sod all, but maybe you could wangle them in well (whilst petrified and getting pumped silly) the top move is hard 5c (very hard 5c probably 6a) a lob off would either result in a massive whipper, onto those dodgey cams, or a ground fall if they popped, but it's unlikely ALL your gear will pull so anywhere from E2 to E5 really- but tis escapeable....... I recon E3 is about right- based purely on how scared I felt at the time and I didn't realise it was escapeable! Grading is tricky ;-)

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Nightwatch- Solo

An aim I'd had for a while and something I thought i needed to do as mental preparation for my project, The Nightwatch is perhaps one of the best lines in the moors. I was psyched for something 'out there', but backed off Jurassic Scarp When it was too horribly loose to warrant an attempt.

I then moved round the corner and set out on what was going to be a testing solo. Probably the most focused i had been since Silver Lining at Froggatt, I got to the first crux and after a scary moment with a suspect hold i managed to get established in the cave. From here I swung out right, via a couple of pockets and a crimp, a brilliant move in a very airy position. I was completely in the zone now, 20 metres below me 15 metres left, the tree at the top was getting nearer and every foot balanced the rest of me perfectly.
I topped out looking over the plateau below, what could be better?- Beautiful day, awesome solo, completely in control.

Monday, 29 September 2008

First ascent- 'Tell Chris Craggs Nowt' HVS 5b FFA- 'Terry's Dilema' E3 5c

I had sussed out Cringle crag on an afternoon off from college, noted the possibilities and returned with Dooge. The Main line we went to 'do the first ascent of', turned out to be wedge route (E4 6a) as what I had thought to be wedge route was in fact an A3. This meant the best line at the crag had already been climbed.

We looked around and spotted Terry's Dilemma (A2). It looked good, but slightly dirty. I had a massive epic abseiling down, as i had to pass a knot on an overhang without prussics! I finally finished cleaning, but it was still in a bad way. The start is very difficult as the initial swing out on to the roof is high and unprotected, you can then shove a size 2.5 cam in which protects the move over the roof to a further size 0.5 and 1.5 cams. From here a shallow jam and some sharp pockets lead to a less steep situation and all the gear you could want. A powerful and technical route, but well protected where you need it- just committing going out on to the roof! It goes at about E3 5c.

We then onsight soloed a wall that was on the higher teir without a route on it. Nice moves, with a technical hard 5a/ easy 5b start and then an exposed (but protectable) 4b finish. We gave it a star as it's such a brilliant feeling moving out onto the arete, with the view down to Wainstones and a nice 8 metre drop down to the steep hillside. Go to Cringle!

Numbers relate to route Discriptions here:

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Rylstone- a few E2s and E3s

Dooge fancied Rylstone, so off we went. I warmed up on Pocket Battleship, a sound E3 6a. An interesting stiff pull on a terrible sloping hold led to a desperate slap into the break of Monument crack. After this we both led monument crack in good style- Dooge only placing 2 runners and myself getting an interesting no-hands rest.
We then moved on, and after a couple of solos of Dental Slab we both led Crazy Diamond and the Hot Line. Crazy Diamond was a great route- especially with my wrong and very sketchy finish. It ends up with a significant run out on a couple of pebbles. Don't go left!

We trotted over to do veteran and I failed on an E4. Nice though. And then finished with some night soloing of poetry in motion and the other one.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Gehenna- HVS 5a (moors HVS!)

Its reputation proceeded it as the solid, jamming test piece of the area and the ultimate proof that you are from the moors. It lived up to it's reputation- I wirte this with badly grazed hands- a true sign I can't jam. The battle was well fought and lasted a fair amount of time, slightly dirty and damp; the jams were slightly slippery and the move out of the niche, a true bastard. Still a fine route and another classic ticked.

In the true spirit of moors ultra-sandbagging though; I recon it's only VS. ;-)

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Les Fleurs du Mal- A first ED

A Conville Technique
After deciding to return home early, we had plans for one last 'big route'. The Walker was out of condition and the Dru north face was too icy for a person of so little experience. Me and Luke decided to tick an ED before we went, even if it was a not very serious one. We chose technical difficulty over danger and decided to visit the Envers Side of the Chamonix Aiguilles. Still 15 pitches and with a sketchy approach (especially with our direct start), but not a massive north face.

Upper Section
We bivvied by the Envers hut (without bivy bags) and walked up the next morning. We cruised most of the way up the route in no particular hurry, but reasonably fast and were on the upper crux section by 12ish. I led the E2 pitch (the only part of the route to have no bolts) and then up the beautiful slabs to the top.

The lower slabs
Some very nice climbing, but slightly eliminate as you are never further than 100 metres from a chossy VS gully. A fine outing though, and a good one to finish the trip on- if only we had stayed out longer.

The view from the bivy

Petis Jourasses West Face

Luke said it was the west face of the Petis Jourasses?
Being poor and stingy, we couldn't afford the train up and like the rest of the holiday, we walked up from the valley. We set up camp bellow the Jourasses and rested our legs until three. We got up and set off. Trotting in the pitch black, without a head torch, we arrived at the base of the route. I led out of the cold onto the beautiful granite face and up for 5 or so pitches, placing the odd friend. Luke and Tom seconded quickly and then Luke block led the next section, through the crux.

We were at 3/4 height now and Tom took over lead. The route was a bit tricky to follow and we promptly went the wrong way after only 20 metres. Tom retreated and I led us onto the easy 5 pitches to the top. Snow and dark clouds set in and we decided to ab off as we'd completed the main difficulties.

The retreat was a bit sketchy and Tom had to be rescued a few times. Luke also hung on a bolt for a while when he went a bit wrong and found he had no rope. A fine trip, if not a bit crap.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

The Cordier Pillar

Ian and Luke had been on Fissure Brown, and we went up to meet them that evening. I had planned to do the Frendo with Luke, but on arrival it was clear he had other plans. The Cordier pillar was the new plan and we were to do it as a five- me, Luke, Ian, Will Sim and Tom Ripley.

I was woken at 6 and up we got. For some reason we arsed about and weren't on the route until 11, but the laid-back atmosphere made for an awesome laugh.

Will and Tom set off first as the cumbrian team and the moors team of me, Luke and Ian followed closely behind. Me and Luke were rather hysterical and were singing rather a lot- putting Ian off on some of the harder moves. Then Luke snapped, a new speed demon was released. He took over the lead and our group of three became insanely slick- so slick we even overtook Will and Tom. Luke led the way, minimal gear placed, but moving amazingingly, shouting at anyone who wasted even a second. Ian followed ripping the gear out and putting Luke on belay for the next pitch as I legged it up behind, carrying the rather heavy bag. We got to the ledge in about an hour and a half, which was pretty good going considering there were a fair few pitches. We waited for Will and Tom and then had lunch.

We looked up at the last ten pitches, beautiful cracks. Luke and Will moved together to the top whilst Me, Ian and Tom brought the ropes up for them to ab. A few dodgy off-widths and Ian belaying mid-pitch wasted a bit of time, but we still got to the top with a few hours on guidebook time. We abseiled down in two groups, only to be re-united on the last belay ledge from the bottom.
A crater
Luke abed into the bergschrund and me, Will, Ian and tom waited on the ledge. Then something dodgy happened. The mountain started to shake and we took minimal cover.

Luke with his rope
The rope, Will was seconds from abseiling down on, was cut by a falling block and then a rock, no smaller than a couple of cars smashed into the Glacier leaving a huge crater. a lucky occasion, especially for Luke, who was surrounded by fragments of rock and a bag near-by had been badly ripped. We decided to run away from the route, dodging the still-falling rocks in a humorous style.

video to come!
Me, Ian and Will after the successful ascent of the Cordier.

Aguille de L'M

I arrived unfresh, after a 30 hour bus ride from Darlington, only to be dragged to 2,500 metres by Ian. He was eager to get climbing and dragged me up to the comfortable bivy spot under the impressive LM.

We were forced under a large boulder for the night when a wee bit of thunder came in. We woke up the next day and trotted round to the sunny NNE ridge for my first alpine route. 5-, should be oright on solo. I led the way up the easy slab and Ian followed up behind. I came across a dodgy section, a wide crack, Ian showed the skilless, but safe way, to thrutch up it and I copied his painful BETA. The NNE ridge was smote in about a 6th of guide book time and we made the easy decent for some food.

The couzy route was next- a UIAA 6. Ian said it was about HVS so we lopped the rope on. I led the crux pitch, but belayed half way through due to incompetence and rope drag. Ian ran up to the top and we were back down for some couscous and sausage.

Ian, not content with this fancied a look at Menegaux Route a 6+. we stormed to the top of the pillar, but then realised it was 9 O’clock. I felt bad stopping Ian having a crack at it, but the crux was high up and I had no head torch. An certain epic avoided there me thinks.

Another dodgy night was spent and then we trotted back to the valley for a bottle of red each- only €1.70 :-)

Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Whitestone Traverse- Video!

Enjoy! dodgey quality- some done on camera phone, and if the pics look crap on here, try leaving it for a minute or starting it again; but it gives you an idea of what it's like. If anyone fancies donating a camera......

franco- off to the alps!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Freeing The Whitestone Traverse- Chameleon- E2 5c A1

We felt we had served our apprenticeship with the moors well and now it was time to test ourselves- a bid for graduation amongst the scattered outcrops of the moors to prove we were real climbers.

The largest challenge in the moors and in my mind the only one left for us- The Infamous Whitestone Traverse. Nearly 300 metres of climbing through absolutely brilliant slabs; Gas pipe Belays; overhanging sections where the rock can not even be touched for fear of it falling off and some of the most awe inspiring rock architecture in the country.

Normally such monstrous tests of skill don't interest me too much, but there has been a little race between the parties of myself and Dooge and Luke Hunt and Ian Jackson for the first free ascent. The route is given E2 5c A1, but the Aid section looked Desperate- a loose crack with little else but the crack for holds. All this after over 200 metres of climbing a pendulum abseil and insanely loose rock. This was going to test our route finding abilities as well as our rock assessment skills.

So a fine Thursday was forecast, we packed Dave’s Espace with hammers and pegs, bivying gear, cameras and Lewis Dale (Lewige- the trainee photographer). We made good time and arrived at the Sutton Bank car park early enough to find a lay-by. We walked the short approach for Dave and Lewis's first glimpse at the cliff. We were apprehensive, but confident. Niether of us had climbed more than 3 pitches before and this 18 pitcher was going to test us.

We made good progress across the first walls, passing ‘The Nightwatch’ and ‘The Skab’ in a fine, pumpy pitch, about 4c/5a. Dooge then led an exposed but easy pitch around the corner, with a 'leap of faith' to reach the next belay ledge. I was left with a short scrambley section to belay on a tree and brought Dooge up who then looked at the next line with interest. It was unclear which was the correct line and I led out to find a tricky move, returned and recommended Dave went a different way. Dooge then led, with a massive run out, out to the arête. He made a hilarious, but terrifying whale/mantle on to a tiny ledge, where he traversed and then belayed. I was impressed with the difficulty- perhaps 5b, and worried that this '4c pitch' was so hard.

We re-cooped and I led across a madly loose wall, above a extremely scary Cassam. With no meaningful gear I reached the bottom of a crack- it looked like soft rock, but better than the rest. Dave Followed over carrying the rucksack and I led again, up the crack. At the top it was hideously precarious, but it was soon dispatched and I moved onto a great slab; bashed the first peg of the day in; clipped a piece of in-situ Gas Pipe; and continued. Dooge dropped a nut and I dropped a belay plate- sweaty hands and a bit tired. After retrieving them (down-climbing 30 metres to a ledge) we carried on. With a little more scrambling we managed to reach the abseil.

We stopped for a drink and realised we'd been on the route for over 6 hours-in the blazing sun, without taking a drink. Dave was starting to talk of packing it in, but I was eager to get to the Aid Section. A mad abseil- involving swinging to a ledge and climbing across whilst still on a prussic gained the start of the '5a pitch'.

I took the lead once again. I was eager to see if i could climb it as I knew Luke had been rescued off it before, so I pushed on, over increasingly poor rock, to a dodgey flake. A mad rock over, with no hand holds (rock too soft) led to the belay (at least 5b), before the Aid Section. Dave said He wasn't too happy seconding this pitch, which gave me the convenient excuse to lower off.

So defeated this Time, but A massive sense of achievement. I feel prepared for the alps (wasn't too tired) and I recon it will fall with some cleaver tactics and perhaps renewed optimism?
The first drink after the 9 hour traverse. Learnt a lot and have a much better chance next time.

We bivvied at Peak Scar that night and the following day I added a direct start to ‘Bivy’- E3 5c with my direct start being soft 6a and very strenuous. Happy Days. See you after the Alps! (hopefully)